One of the most important parts of the Riverside Tutorial is the building up of the brotherhood in a way that incorporates the gifts of all, and helps them work towards a common meaningful goal.
The reason why I named this program the Tutorial, which has often confused many, was to honor JRR Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who taught Tutorials at Oxford. This does not imply that we are trying to form an elite academic cadre of intellectuals who gather around with brews and pipes and converse about their ideas, though this certainty might happen later, as the boys become men, I mean. Rather, the purpose of Tutorial is to foster in the boys a lively imagination rooted in great stories; to create a fellowship of creative endeavor; to inspire them to adventure out into the outdoors and learn many of the skills they ought to learn as young men; to enjoy the satisfaction of working with their hands by making and building things; to appreciate, wonder at, and understand the natural world, especially the realm they happen to inhabit. And most of all to help them live the Riverside Code:
Build the Brotherhood
Create Don’t Criticize
See the Gold
Live the Work
He went off alone to pray
Education these days is often considered to be merely an exercise in finding ways to ram content into the heads of pupils. But Riverside Tutorial above all is about creating cathartic experiences rooted in story, adventure, craftsmanship, and prayer.Through the fellowship of creative endeavor, the boys gain insight into the vital connection between creative gift, friendship, meaningful work, and life, or, as we call it at Riverside: The Adventurous Pilgrimage to Heaven. There is nothing more educational than giving a boy an experience of meaningful, inspired work in the context of a joyful, diligent fellowship that is rooted in prayer. For what we all hope for in this life is to discover our gifts, our calling, and the fellowship we are meant to be a part of, whether that be connected to our profession, or whether it is simply part of our life in a supplemental way.
We live in a culture that is dominated by a utilitarian spirit. By this I mean a spirit that influences the young to see education as a mere content-consuming time in their life. They view it as a stepping stone to the next academic level or to a profession that will help them acquire things and be considered a productive member of our economy. Though there are some admirable parts of this attitude, it in no way expresses the purpose of Tutorial, nor the Riverside Way.
Think of what can happen if a boy experiences one moment when his creative gift connects with an endeavor that both inspires and enlivens him. This endeavor will open up to him the richness of life–that adventurous journey we are all on together–and you will have given him something enchanting that he will remember for the rest of his life.
Tutorial is a place of wonder, enchantment, story, beauty, the natural world, adventure, and prayer. What we want to help boys see, is that they can be both a warrior and a poet: a man who is strong, brave, and is willing to bear the slings and arrows, but who can strike up a song around the fire, enjoy poetry, wonder at the beauty of the natural world, and inspire others to do the same. He will be able to build culture through an imaginative and adventurous spirit. If a boy does not finish Tutorial with this spirit, we have not done our job.
A parent recently gave me a Christmas gift of a framed Tolkien quote: “If more of us valued food and cheer, and song over hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
What I like about this quote is that it reminds us that life is not a random tumble through time, or a jumble of things and situations through which we must wade. It is above all an epic story-a story in which each of us have a vital role to play. Understanding that story with more lucidity, and discovering our calling is the most important part of education in my opinion. It is true wisdom. TS Eliot once wrote in his poem The Rock: Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? You may ask how does the Tolkien quote about food, cheer, and song have to do with true wisdom and knowledge? I would answer that there are moments in life, like an oasis on a long arduous journey, when we are given one of life’s greatest gifts: a sense that even in the midst of a chaotic angry world, there are still places where friendship, storytelling, song, food, good cheer, and faith dwell. Any road-worn traveler who has experienced this sort of oasis at least once, will remember it for many days to come. It will be a light in dark places, and a memory that the world is still good. Hope…hope is what great stories and fellowships of creative endeavor give to us in this world.
Since I have included a Tolkien quote, it is appropriate to also include a quote from Lewis. This is one of my favorites:
“Those are the golden sessions; when four or five of us after a hard day’s walk have come to our inn; when our slippers are on, our feet spread out toward the blaze and our drinks are at our elbows; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk; and no one has any claim on or any responsibility for another, but all are freemen and equals as if we had first met an hour ago, while at the same time an Affection mellowed by the years enfolds us. Life — natural life — has no better gift to give. Who could have deserved it?”
It seems providential that my theme for this first newsletter focuses on creative fellowship, or friendship. Above all, I believe that if Tutorial can give our apprentices a taste for this sort of creative work, and this kind of fellowship, they will not only long for it in their lives, but they will recreate these creative fellowships wherever they go. And if above all they awake each day with the knowledge that life is an adventurous pilgrimage to heaven, and that they are part of an epic story, greater than any myth or legend, then we have fulfilled our role at Riverside.
(This article is an excerpt from Peter Searby’s upcoming book, which will share his creative vision for teaching boys.)